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I tried to translate these 2 phrases into German:

too big a desk - zu großer Schreibtisch.

too little time - zu wenig Zeit

So, "Schreibtisch" is masculine so the ending of the adjective before it makes sense. But why in the second phrase, "wenig" doesn't take the feminine -e ending?

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Sie hat zu wenig Zeit.

Er zeigt zu wenig Zuneigung.

This is the adverbial use of the pronoun wenig, and that's why it doesn't get adjective endings.

You can break down the grammar of these sentences as wenig is not a feature of die Zeit or die Zuneigung here, but a feature of the verb

(zu) wenig haben

(zu) wenig zeigen

Think of such common adverb-verb combinations as verbs of their own.


The adjective use of wenig works like this instead:

Es lag an der (zu) wenigen Zeit, die sie hatte.

The article der creates a brace with Zeit, which marks all the things inbetween belonging to der and Zeit. So it has to be an adjective here.


To make it even more complicated, even adjectives as groß can be used like adverbs:

Er hatte nicht groß Zeit.

This is groß in the meaning of viel.

  • Thanks, now it makes more sense, but is this just a feature of "wenig, groß"? If I said "zu groß schreibtisch" in which "groß" is a feature of the verb instead of the noun would it also be considered correct? In the meantime, I can say "zu wenige zeit" and still be correct right as long as I intend "wenig" to be an attributive adjective instead of an adverb? – Evil Racehorse Jun 1 '18 at 3:44
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    Zu groß Schreibtisch isn't correct, and zu viel Schreibtisch is at least questionable. Am Ende des Geldes ist bei mir noch zu viel Monat übrig. is however a common saying. That adverbial use is limited to adverbs that take an attribute, as kein, wenig, viel, häufig, selten etc. – Janka Jun 1 '18 at 10:03
  • Zu wenige Zeit means a slightly different thing than zu wenig Zeit but yes, it's correct in the right grammatical context. – Janka Jun 1 '18 at 10:04
  • Now it makes sense, thanks for the clarification. I hope this will become even clearer as I am exposed to more content – Evil Racehorse Jun 1 '18 at 10:11

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